There are people who champion sustainability and there are people who live it. The name Vijay Mudaliar is synonymous with the sustainable movement, even though he’s been living the life through Native the Cocktail bar long before the movement became a buzzword permeating every crevice of society.
Native has garnered a formidable reputation through the years for the creative use of local ingredients and the minimising of waste.
The bar frequently appears in the annual list of the world’s 50 best bars and is perhaps the perfect validation of the founder and his team’s commitment to their uncompromising way of life.
The highly acclaimed cocktail bar now has a full-service restaurant that operates with the same commitment to local and regional produce and minimising wastage. It’s located at the same address – 52 Amoy Street – but the premises are clearly demarcated: the lab on the third floor, the bar on the second, and the restaurant on the ground floor.
The modest, casual setting serves as the perfect backdrop for its eclectic fare, where head chef MJ Teoh (previously of Pollen, Nouri and Appetite) serves up a decidedly local affair – with a twist, of course – made with authentic ingredients and an adventurous streak. The menu is conspicuously inclusive with its myriad of vegetarian and vegan options, so it augurs well if you have health-conscious members in your party.
The restaurant has its cocktail menu, designed to be lighter on the palate and more suited as an accompaniment for meals. Step out of the interminable weather and into the loving, air-conditioned arms of the restaurant and cool off with the Snow Pear and Houji Highball, two examples of their lighter cocktails and the perfect refreshment for those impossibly scorching days.
Without missing a beat, it’s time to jump into Really Cold Somen, Teoh’s interpretation of Japanese cold noodles and Naengmyeon. The ice-cold noodles are perfectly complemented by the expressive dipping sauce, a rainbow of spice, umami, sweetness and tart.
If you have to pick just one appetiser, the Miang Kham comes highly recommended. The pineapple shoyu is wonderfully addictive and is the foundation of the wrap that you get to put together yourself, so you can tweak the proportion of ingredients to taste. That opens the window for you to ‘con’ your companions out of more yummy paste and crispy borlotti tempeh. It’s totally worth the karma.
Petai is typically a love-or-hate affair but the umami-rich Petai-So Clams is far less dramatic. The homemade petai miso soup base brings mostly the good bits and the crispy youtiao is a nice touch. I’ll be surprised if there’s leftover soup in the bowl.
But if that doesn’t sound assuring enough there’s always a fail-safe in the form of the Nose to Tail Chicken Pao Fan. This veritable crowd-pleaser plays with textures – tender chicken thigh and crispy gizzards are softened in a savoury broth with poached rice and perfectly garnished with sprinkles of crunchy rice crispies. This is accompanied by the unique Ah Moy’s Chilli Sauce – Teoh’s family recipe – that adds a touch of home-styled character.
And for dessert, the Sticky Jackfruit & Sugee Cake is worth a visit if you’re a fan of gula melaka. It might be an intense meeting of strong flavours but you can always have post-meal drinks to take the edge off.
At this point of the night, the rich, velvety Keluak Martini sounds like the perfect cocktail to end the proceedings. Or if you prefer a digestif, the nondescript-sounding Mango Ginger is exactly what the name describes – on point. Which is an apt way to sum up the new restaurant.
52 Amoy Street
Tel: 8869 6520